An Ever Changing Terroir

We’re not supposed to use the word ‘terroir’ anymore is what I heard. I think it’s because the word is elitist? But here’s another thing about terroir, it’s constantly changing. Even if we just call it the environment, the whole of the soil, climate, temperature, water source, altitude, latitude and all the other things that influence the growth of the grapes, it’s still changing, constantly changing.

Terroir is a biosphere of unplanned interaction. The constancy of uncertainty is part of its identity.

Chateau d’Issan was established in the 12th century. According to their website the wine was served at the wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henri Plantagenet This was 400 years before the Dutch drained the marshes around Bordeaux changing the soils of the area and creating a much different terroir. 200 years after that there was a change in focus for grapes. In the early 1800’s right bank Bordeaux went from being Malbec dominant to becoming Cabernet Sauvignon dominant. 150 years later heat hearty grapes have been added to the list of allowed grapes in Bordeaux to adjust to global warming and the changes it is making to terroir.

Chateau d’Issan is a third growth in the 1855 classification. The 2017 has aromas of deep, rich black cherries and black plums, violets, spice, black tea and bitter dark chocolate. It’s a very elegant and graceful wine. It’s young and will change and evolve for decades.

Terroir changes. Wines evolve. Change becomes part of the terroir of the wine.

Finding Our Terroir

Southern Virginia

The Piedmont region of Italy is home to the Nebbiolo grape.  While Nebbiolo makes world renowned wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco, it is considered an indigenous rather than an international grape.  The Nebbiolo only grows well in its place of origin, the Piedmont region and has not been successfully transplanted elsewhere.

Last month I had the opportunity to visit some very good friends who live in southern Virginia.  They are both very well travelled, but have lived in Virginia all their lives.  The old maxim, ‘you can’t be a true Virginian unless your mother was born in Virginia,’ makes them both true Virginians.  I can’t imagine them living anywhere else.  They are as much a part of southern Virginia as southern Virginia is a part of them.

Melon de Borgogne is the primary grape of the Pays Nantais in the western end of the Loire Valley.  Melon de Bourgogne is also known as Muscadet and makes a light, crisp white wine that goes well with shell fish.

When I first read about Melon de Bourgogne, the name confused me.  Bourgogne is French for Burgundy, which is on the eastern side of France, nowhere near Pays Nantais to the west.  With a little more research, I learned that Melon de Bourgogne originated in Burgundy, but is no longer grown there.  It has made Nantais its home.

I have a good friend here in Nevada who was born and raised in New Jersey.  When she was in her 20’s, she moved to Colorado.  She once told me that when she first got to Colorado, when she first stepped off the plane, she had an immediate sensation that she was home.  Even though she has family and friends in both New Jersey and Nevada, she still thinks of Colorado as home.

Some of us are lucky enough to be born in the place that feels most like home.  Others must travel away from their place of origin to find their true terroir.